Packing for an African Safari can feel intimidating—you hear about all sorts of luggage restrictions, like that small charter planes only allow luggage under 40 pounds, and it has to be soft-shelled (no frames or rigid structures). Do I need any vaccinations to enter the countries i will be travelling to? We asked all the eyeseeAfrica experts to give their input and tell us what they think are the most important tips and essential gear to bring with on your safari trip of a lifetime to Africa.
If you are only going to fly on the bigger airlines with scheduled flights then the weigh allowed per passenger is normally 20kg in any type of bag. Only 1 checked-in bag per passenger is allowed and your fare normally comes with two free carry-on bags. The larger of the two should not weigh more than 7kg. This bag must fit in the storage compartment in the cabin.
If you are going to fly in a smaller plane during your safari then the rules are slightly different. The weight of luggage is very limited on the small aircrafts that fly in the remote areas of Africa. It may also slightly vary between different charter companies.
Southern Africa – 20kg per person in total (hand plus checked), soft sided bags only. The maximum dimensions of the soft bags which can be accommodated are as follow : 25cm (10 inches) wide x 30 cm (12 inches) high and 62 cm (24 inches) long.
East Africa – 15 kg per person in total (hand plus checked), soft sided bags only. The dimensions the same as per above.
For your main main bag choose a duffel bag which is soft and squashable and which has no frame. This is especially relevant for safari travels to Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, and Kenya. The reason for this is that the majority of safari lodges and camps within these countries are accessible only by light aircraft such as the Cessna 210 shown above. As a result, in order for your pilot to fit your luggage into the small, cramped hold, your luggage must not have hard sides, nor rigid frames or structures and should rather be soft-sided so that the pilot is able to fit (squash) your bag into the plane. Your main bag will go into the hold and you will keep your carry on bag with you. The same is true for some overland and expedition-style safaris where there will be limited space for luggage in the safari 4×4. Just to forgo the wheels on your luggage (they add about eight to 12 pounds) you have so much more weight for clothing and shoes. Choose a backpack for your carry on bag which will also be handy to use on walking safaris and when you do Gorilla trekking in Uganda.
Tip – Keep your medications, an extra set of clothing and some toiletries with you in your carry on bag when flying to Africa on your international flight. It may happen that your luggage get delayed or wrongly routed with all the connecting flights and we may only be able to get your bags to you a day or two later when you have already started your trip.
Khaki and tan are the preferred colours when going on a game drive & walk. When you are in a safari vehicle or your own vehicle you can however wear clothes in any colour. Avoid however shirts that are purple, red or royal blue or any bright colours as they seem to make the animals shy away. Biting insects like Tse-tse flies are attracted to striped patterns of royal blue/black, so don’t wear this combination if possible. Since most camps provide laundry services, packing light is recommended.
• 2 pair long trousers (khakis or cotton pants/slacks) for dinner time.
• Button-down long-sleeve sport shirts at dinner for men.
• Jeans (one or two pairs).
• 1 casual skirt for women (optional).
• 2 to 3 pair shorts (men & women).
• 1 “smart casual” or dressy evening attire.
• 3 to 4 t-shirts for daytime wear.
• 1 long sleeved t-shirt or turtleneck.
• Long-sleeve and mid-sleeve women’s cotton shirts for layering.
• 1 light to medium weight cardigan or pullover sweater or sweatshirt.
• Ladies might well want to pack a Pashmina.
• Windbreaker/fleece jacket for layering during game drives and evening.
• Comfortable sneakers/sandals/walking shoes for game walks. Heavy mountain climbing boots is not necessary and will just increase your luggage weight.
• Flip-flops or similar for pool or in-room use, or even in your safari vehicle.
• Swimsuit as most hotels and lodges have swimming pools.
• Underwear & socks for 3-5 days (for women a sports-bra is good for bumpy roads). Most lodges/hotels offer laundry facilities.
• Sleep wear (light weight sweats double up nicely).
• Baseball cap or hat to keep dust/sun from your head.
• Good pair of sunglasses.
Tip – Bring a bandana, which when the temperature is warm, it is very refreshing around your neck when dipped in cold water. It also covers your neck against the sun and is great to cover your face on a sometimes dusty/windy game drives.
MEDICAL ITEMS & VACCINATIONS
• Sun block With SPF of at least 30.
• Insect repellent (Can be bought locally at any pharmacy or at the airport when travelling to Southern Africa). We like Peacefull Sleep or Tabbard.
• Basic medical kit (aspirin, band-aids, Imodium, antiseptic /anti-histamine cream) – Not essential when travelling to South Africa or Namibia as most hotels & lodges will have basic medical supplies or it can easily be obtained from a pharmacy.
• Contact lens solution & an extra set of disposable lenses if wearing contact lenses.
• Your Anti Malaria tablets (If travelling to Malaria areas) – Read HERE more on Malaria.
• Prescribed medicine (enough to last your trip) – keep packed in your hand luggage in case of baggage delays.
• Motion sickness tablets if you are going on a boat.
There are no mandatory vaccinations required to enter Southern African countries unless you have travelled from a Yellow Fever country in which case you should present your Yellow Fever certificate on arrival. Travelers on scheduled airlines whose flights have originated outside the areas regarded as infected (or who are only in transit through these areas) are not required to possess a certificate. If the flight originated from within a Yellow Fever endemic area a certificate may then be required.
Please consult your doctor about any other vaccinations which, depending to which areas you travel, may be good to have.
Tip – Many areas in Southern Africa are low risk Malaria areas and it is not always necessary to take the Anti Malaria tablets, especially when they make you feel unwell. By taking the necessary steps to limit your chances of getting bitten in the evenings your risk is very low. This is however still your personal choice and we recommend that you consult with your doctor. There are also Malaria free areas if you want to go on safari with small kids. Consult your eyeseeAfrica expert about our Malaria free safaris.
OTHER ESSENTIAL ITEMS
• Binoculars and a camera are a must. We recommend a camera with a telephoto lens and lightweight binoculars
• International adaptor (Will be available at all major airports when arriving in South Africa).
• A small Flashlight or Petzl headlight is always practical for walking in the dark.
• Chargers for your cell phone, camera, video camera, etc.
• Specialized batteries for small electronics and cameras.
• Personal toiletries.
• Credit and ATM cards – check to see if your bank has international ATM locations to avoid high fees and let your bank know you’ll be traveling abroad before you leave. Almost all lodges and hotels accept credit cards with the exception of American Express.
• International driver’s license if you are going to drive a vehicle (Most African countries do however accept your normal driver’s license).
• Travel journal and a favorite book to read – See HERE a good list to pick one from.
• Passport with visas if needed. Consult your eyeseeAfrica expert whether you need any visas for your upcoming trip. See also HERE if you will need a Visa.
• NB! Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Africa and have at least 2 completely blank opposite pages.
• Yellow Fever certificate where necessary.
• Any vaccinations certificates needed for travelling to certain parts of Africa (No certificates needed for Southern Africa).
• Copies of prescriptions for personal medication.
• Copy of travel & medical insurance policy.
NB!! Please bring with Unabridged Birth Certificates for children under 18 years when travelling to Namibia & Botswana. Please consult your eyeseeAfrica consultant as the rules are constantly changing.